[Ads-l] Antedating Mulligan Stew

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Jun 20 16:20:23 UTC 2016

I've been working on a piece that ties together "Chowder Party" the "Mulligan Guard" "Mulligan stew".  In light of Stephen Goranson's find of "Mulligan" as a party,  I will also tie in "Mulligan party".

Antedating "Mulligan stew" 

Barry Popik's site has "Mulligan stew" - 17 May 1894, Evening Star (Washington, DC), pg. 3, col. 6: "Now mulligan is a stew of large proportions and many ingredients . . . ."

I've found two earlier - but only by a few weeks:

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 12, 1894, page 5 (chronicling America): "The meat and potatoes were stewed together into what is called Mulligan stew . . . ."

The Anaconda Standard (Anaconda, Montana), April 24, 1894, page 4 (chronicling America): "Rations were served to each company and the men had what they called a "mulligan," which consisted of a kind of Irish stew made of the scraps left over from the former meals."

All three of these references refer to the "Industrial army" of unemployed workingmen who were organizing into "Coxey's Army" for a march on Washington to protest economic conditions and lobby for public works projects to provide jobs.  These "armies" were organized much like local militia units, with officers, drills, and militaryish structure. 

The Irish comedy team of Harrigan & Hart staged a series of plays in the 1870s and into the 1880s about a local Irish militia unit in New York City - the "Mulligan Guards".  One of their plays was entitled, "The Mulligan Guard Chowder."  The "chowder" in that play apparently included a cat - making it really more of a stew.  I have not found any detailed description of the plot, but the popularity of the "Mulligan Guard," and the fact that one of the plays involved making a chowder with a cat, suggests a connection.

Also, since the earliest accounts of "Mulligan stew" appear in connection with "Coxey's Armies" - militia-like units of hobos and tramps, also suggests a thematic connection to the "Mulligan Guard Chowder."  The early use in an army of hobos also explains why the term became associated with hobos and tramps.

The term "Mulligan Party" appears to be a later variation of the "Chowder Party."  "Chowder Parties" have a long history as a social outing - I've seen references in the 1840s.  A "Chowder Party" also became a common feature of local politics, militia and fireman and police departments.  Tickets were sold to the "Chowder Parties," like tickets might be sold for the "Police Department Ball" or other events - as a fundraiser for the police, militia unit, fire department, or local precinct.  The chowder outing in "The Mulligan Guard Chowder" was just such a social/political/militia party.  After "mulligan stew" became well known, I can imagine people simply substituting "Mulligan" for "chowder" - since they both are basically similar.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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